COLUMBUS - Sometimes when things seem their darkest, a sliver lining flares up with blinding inspiration. That's one perspective for Dragon Slayer Teen Center Director Tricia Boyes, who in the past week-and-a-half has seen both spectrums of what people are capable of.
The Dragon Slayer Teen Center opened last summer in Columbus with a straightforward mission: Provide a safe, fun environment for local kids to hang out at and stay out of trouble. The evening of April, Dragon Slayer was betrayed by two young men who used to frequent the very center they were now taking advantage of.
"It's absolutely heartbreaking," said Tricia Boyes, fighting back tears. "Everything we do here is taken care of by donations and volunteer efforts to keep it free. So the kids will have a place to go."
Boyes said other than the missing items, no vandalism or damage to the center was done. The items burglarized including three televisions, two gaming consoles: Playstation 4 and XBOX 360, $30 cash, and all of her candy supplies (over $100 worth).
"We had a spare key go missing a few months ago," Boyes said.
Columbus Police of Chief Jason Daniels said that other than the candy bars and some of the cash, all of the stolen items have been recovered. Two suspects were arrested in connection to the burglary: Jackson Forester, 20, and Christopher Hardison, 18.
"The investigation is still ongoing and it's possible there will be more suspects and arrests," Chief Daniels said.
Prior to the items being recovered, things seemed very grim for the fate of the teen center. Aside from the financial hit, nothing more disheartening could have happened than to have some of the very kids Boyes and the rest of the volunteers who run the center set out to help.
"When I told the kids that I may have to shut down because I can't keep it going when stuff like this happens they were upset and begged me not to close the doors," said Boyes on the teen center's Facebook page. "I knew there was no way I could let that happen."
Not content to let their center get shut down, several students begin putting their minds to the task of recovering what was lost. What they ended up with, however, was more than they could have hoped for.
Emily Peterson and Sydney Stanley spearheaded a bake sale fundraiser. Putting the event together in under a week, the girls set up in front of the First Christian Church on Good Friday morning. In just about two hours the girls raised $822.
"We have a bunch of great kids out there and we have some that make bad choices," said Boyes. "These kids need positive role models in their life, not only in schools but outside of school. This is who we're doing this for. They need a place where they feel loved and like they belong. I am so grateful to live in this great community that steps out and helps others! You can say what you want about living in a small town, but our small town is pretty special!"